A contrarian’s confession on his Steeler fandom

Since young, I was never into the popular sport or the popular team or anything that was agreed upon by a large group of people as “the thing”.  It’s probably why working with startups, since these are always the underdogs of any industry, has always been the most fascinating phase of their development to me.  My contrarianism manifested itself in various ways, including being very anti-establishment or anti-authority, though with age all things mellow out and I’m likely less vehement on more general issues and remain focused on channeling these energies into helping and making early stage companies.

It was with this thought in mind, that I harkened back to my youth.  It struck me that I had been a serious Pittsburgh Steelers fan since my 3rd year living in Pittsburgh.  Though actually, I had rooted for the Steelers through all of their previous Superbowl wins in the ’70s.  As a New Yorker growing up, the New York Jets were my team, but the only thing a contrarian like was sure to hate more than an inter-conference rival is “America’s Team”.  Yep, I hated the Dallas Cowboys, where the Pittsburgh Steelers felt like a gritty team that even when beating my Jets.  The Cowboys on the other hand represented all of the hubris, arrogance, and carried all of the establishment baggage in being called “America’s Team”, that really made my skin crawl.  One of my best friends growing up was a Cowboys fan, and it would have been easy to join his bandwagon, but I’d have none of it.  It’s this same contrarian nature that kept me away from being a Yankees fan and instead lay my loyalty with the Mets.  It kept me cheering against the L.A. Lakers in basketball, the Montreal Canadiens in hockey, and Germany in soccer.

In moving to Pittsburgh still a Jets fan, it was infectuous to see how dedicated people there were to their team despite some aweful years of loosing records.  Names like Mark Malone (the “Magnum P.I.” of pro-football) and Bubby Brister still ring in my head.  While the Steelers were never quite as bad as the 0-16 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for a prideful town like Pittsburgh it was difficult to take.  And yet, it’s times like those that you really earn your stripes of fandom.  Persevering and keeping the faith that next year will be better.  Well, after living in Pittsburgh for 11 years and suffering through loosing record after loosing record, I stuck with it and remain a fan to this day.  This perseverance has paid off and the rewards of a winning team have come. And yet, even with all of their recent Superbowl wins, they don’t come across like the establishment, but rather those who fought the establishment and won.

I recently took note that it’s been 14 years since I’ve lived in the Bay area, and yet, the Black & Gold has remained my team.  The 49ers community never instilled the sort of passion that the Steeler nation did.  The Raiders perhaps come the closest to a team I could get behind (as a a contrarian), but Al Davis is no Rooney family, where the Rooneys always seemed to embody all that was good about the game and the loyalty in the management they chose to shepherd their team.  Perhaps it’s that football season out here isn’t as fervent as it was back in the ‘Burgh.  Perhaps it’s the nicer weather that makes folks less hardcore than in Pittsburgh.  Whatever it is, the contrarian in me still feels like the Steelers represent the team of effort, never the favorites, and they never come across as arrogant or like “America’s Team”, they just feel like a hard working team that earns every win.  That’s what keeps me a Steeler fan.

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